Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 19 : Tens of thousands of women, cutting across caste and class barriers, offered Pongala to the deity of Attukal Bhagawathy temple here today, billed as the largest annual gathering of women in the world.
The women squatted on roads, bylanes, footpaths and shop fronts in a radius of eight km around the temple to cook the mixture of rice, jaggery and coconut in earthen pots that is offered to the goddess seeking divine blessings.
The ritual began at 1045 hrs with the chief priest lighting a hearth with the flame taken from the sanctum sanctorum.
The flame was later transferred to other hearths as a huge pall of smoke rose over the city.
The festival saw foreigners and film actors rubbing shoulders with working women and domestic helps to offer Pongala.
In 1997, the Pongala festival entered the Guiness Book of World Records for being the ”largest annual gathering of women” in the world as around 1.5 million assembled in entire area of about five km radius of the temple.
However, it is estimated that over 2.5 million women participated this time.
The Goddess of the temple is regarded as the incarnation of Goddess Kannaki, the divine heroine of ‘Silappadhikaram’, written by Tamil Poet Illango in 2nd century AD, temple sources said.